Modern OSs are composed of numerous files. These files include program files, configuration files, font files, and more. Many of these files come in collections that are often called packages, which consist of files that together make up a logical whole. For instance, a package might include a program file, its documentation, its configuration files, and other support files. Most Linux distributions today use one of two tools for managing packages: the RPM Package Manager (RPM) or Debian's package tools. Both systems enable distribution of packages as individual archive files and provide a set of tools for installing, removing, upgrading, and otherwise manipulating packages. Knowing how to use these tools is critical to basic system administration. After you have mastered the skills needed to use these tools, you can move beyond the basics. This chapter covers two advanced applications of these tools: how to convert between package file formats and how to use package management tools to help automate the upgrade process, thereby improving your ability to keep up to date with security and other important system upgrades.

Note A few distributions (notably Slackware) use tarballs as their package format. Tarballs are less sophisticated than other package formats, although Slackware builds a database of installed files using other means. Chapter 17, "Protecting Your System with Backups," covers tar.

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